The Family Therapist is In
My Two Percent
December, 2004 - Issue #3
In any relationship, raising any type of family, probably the slowest, hardest lesson to learn is that regardless of what side of the relationship we're on - we're part of the problem. When was the last time that you actually went home and said to your partner/spouse/child: "I learned something today - I was wrong..." and then you actually stated how you were wrong? Nothing helps build a bridge more than letting the other person know you're willing to work. It also takes away some of the stress you're feeling. Being angry, mad, and defensive takes a lot of work and creates a lot of stress.

"Communication." It's the oldest cliche word in counseling, but with good reason. Most of the time women and men say something like: "He/she/my child won't talk to me," "No one listens," "No one cares," "I have to do everything." These are important issues but what I notice most about them is that it's always one person pointing the finger at the other - it's always because of what the "other person" is doing or not doing. Can you accept responsibility for two percent of the problem? Not 100 percent or even 50 percent - let's just start with your two percent. How could that change your relationships? How could that change your family? How could that change your stress level? What does that teach your children?

From week to week patterns of indifference, disrespect, coldness and depression begin to breakdown when we're willing to focus on our two percent. The eight most common areas of difficulty that men and women share are:

• communication
• husband/wife/partner's disinterest in the other person, children, home
• alcohol, drug problems
• extramarital affair
• children
• sexual incompatibility
• financial problems
• other problems: priorities, organization, in-laws, depression

Many of the above overlap - they're not isolated issues. For example, if a woman begins to show her husband more interest and appreciation, he may respond with a greater interest in her. If a mom stops nagging at her child, he/she may respond by stopping the problem behavior. When the communication changes, the atmosphere in the home relaxes and trust in each other and the relationship can grow.

Now I know as soon as I write this many of you reading will say, "But that doesn't work in my home, with my husband, with my child, with my wife..." I encourage you not focus on them, focus on you - your two percent and trying something different. Focus on the plan to work on your part.

What is creating the stress in your life? What is your two percent? What do you see as your contributing factor to the problems you're experiencing in your marriage, relationships, family life? If you're opening to sharing, please e-mail me and let me know - we'll take a look at your issue together. I'm always amazed at the insight we all have when we work together to solve a problem.

Kim Schafer welcomes comments from readers. You can contact her via e-mail at
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